WASHINGTON (DC) — The ousted national secretary of a federal workers union will return to his post thanks to a federal judge’s ruling.
Eugene Hudson Jr. was twice elected national secretary treasurer of the American Federation of Government Employees. In 2016, shortly after Donald Trump was elected president, he sent a mass email on AFGE’s email network to warn his fellow union members of the impending storm.
“Congressional majority have a bull’s eye planted on the backs of federal workers and the unions that represent them,” Hudson wrote in the Nov. 15 email. “The question is whether we are ready for this assault.”
Union president David Cox, vice president Gerald Swanke and general counsel David Borer bridled at the email’s tone and language. Cox feared email might be considered a violation of the Hatch Act, which prohibits federal employees from politically campaigning from their office.
They also were concerned the Hudson’s use of the union’s email list, and sending the message through federal routers, could be a Hatch Act violation.
About a month later, the AFGE board took action. A few days before Christmas, National Vice-President Keith Hill filed an internal charge against Hudson, saying his email blast had violated the AFGE National Constitution, which prohibits actions that could be “detrimental” to the union.
The union leadership then commenced proceedings to expel Hudson. An investigation committee was formed and sent a report to the union's National Executive Council, which voted to remove him.
Hudson appealed to the council, but as his appeal would not be heard until 2018, he sued the union in District of Columbia Federal Courts.
U.S. District Judge James Boasberg ruled for Hudson on Nov. 9.
Hudson argued that some members of the council who decided his fate were incapable of being impartial, and union bylaws promise members facing such punishment a fair trial. The inclusion of council members Swanke and Cox apparently swung Judge Boasberg to believe Hudson had been unfairly sacked.
Swanke had posted insulting tweets about Hudson after the email was sent, and had filed long-since-dismissed, unrelated charges against him years ago.
Cox was sure to run for AFGE president again, a post Hudson had already announced he would run for as well.
“Courts have generally been sympathetic to situations where there is evidence of prior political or personal enmity between an accused union member and his adjudicator,” Boasberg wrote.
“Hudson has a likelihood of success on his claim that retaining Swanke — someone who had previously filed charges against Hudson and later referred to him as a ‘Master Grifter’ [on Twitter] — ‘presented a ‘significant danger of bias’ such that he did not receive a full and fair hearing.”
Boasberg added that Hudson attached to his complaint Swanke ‘s tweet accusing him ‘of being a ‘Master Grifter that can blow $800k overbudget [sic] and accuse others of fiscal irresponsibility.’ As AFGE noted at argument, this tweet was sent after the Committee investigation, but the Court finds it is still probative of bias.” (Citation omitted.)
Boasberg also said that the biased nature of the council may harm to the “public interest” of the union’s work
The declaratory judgment returns Hudson to his position as secretary treasurer but leaves the door open for AFGE to refile charges against him.
Hudson wrote in an Instagram post after the ruling: “They threw the kitchen sink at me and I still prevailed. …
“These negative, status quo tactics are exactly what members have been rejecting.”
Neither Swanke, Cox nor AFGE responded immediately to requests for comment
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